There is no PEBCAK

June 26, 2009

Watching Google’s amazing “what is a browser” video (below) it is easy (and I can almost hear the geeks laughing) to assume that these are just stupid people on a bad day. I mean, what the hell is wrong with them? “My browser is Google”? WTF?

The thing is, these aren’t stupid people. They’re just normal people, going about their normal lives doing normal things. And these are the people we’re building websites and interactive experiences for.

The phrase Problem Exists Between Chair And Keyboard (and wow, isn’t it interesting that there are LOADS of phrases on the same page which mean the same thing, and all equally rude..) was invented by developers trying hard to find excuses for the poor implementation they just rolled out.

The thing is, the problem isn’t BCAK, it’s In The Dev Team. Maybe we should invent a new acronym: PEITDT

Longer term, this is of course more to do with tech literacy, being a digital native, familiarity with the web and so on. Shorter term, until we solve the literacy problem, we need to pay extra-special attention to users. And maybe never, ever say the phrase PEBCAK or any of its permutations again…

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W3vv0_RNTM8]

5 thoughts on “There is no PEBCAK

  1. Does it really matter if the majority of users don’t know the exact terminology for the application they use to surf the Internet?

    Most people wouldn’t be able to tell you thier Internet connection speed either, or the difference between the Internet and the Web. This lack of awareness of the exact definitions doesn’t hinder their ability to use the Internet though so I really don’t see a problem.

    Should we be surprised if those same randomly selected people on the street are unable to point to the carbureter when the hood is lifted on their car?

  2. @Vincent – thanks for commenting

    No, clearly the terminology is unimportant to a large extent, although the way these technologies are used is connected. My mum, for example, has big problems using the internet because she simply doesn’t understand the difference between a Google search and the address bar URL field. Increasingly of course (especially with Chrome but also to a certain extent with FF) this doesn’t matter, but I have her fairly frequently putting urls in the Google search box and search terms into the address field. Subsequently she has a whole bunch of issues which directly lead to her having a rubbish experience of technology.

    So no, I don’t think people need to know what things are called – ditto, I don’t think they should be expected to understand how they work – but there is a level of technical proficiency which *helps*, and both training and developers can help this.

  3. The What is a Browser Reality Check « backpass.org

  4. I’m sorry dude, but if your own mother can’t tell the difference between an address bar and a search bar after being told more than once, then yes, there IS a PEBCAK. That’s not a dev fault, that’s a user fault.

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